Tracing Roots: From Creating a Film to Making Conversations

Tracing Roots is a short but strong documentary, it never feels forced or contrived. It flows with ease and the soundtrack is fresh—nothing tinny or canned about it. In a world where there are hundreds of thousands of documentaries, many of which are substandard and get lost in the shuffle, Tracing Roots is one that viewers will enjoy remembering, and perhaps retell more as a memory than a movie.
— Anchorage Press
                               Drawing by david Rubin

                               Drawing by david Rubin


Showing a film and letting something that has been chewed on, often in solitude, out, generates a mixed palette of fright, excitement, and affirmation. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been on this rollercoaster, the feelings, the worries and the hopes resonate and repeat. Then there are the moments,  when for example, a moderator at a screening says he is “breatheless,” as Joe Watkins did in Vancouver after the credits and before the question and answers started. Then the hours and weeks chewing and crafting, the doubts over choices made are eased and the hope that the work, will encourage something more are kindled once again.

We’ve shown Tracing Roots at public screenings in Ketchikan and Anchorage, at a small screenings in Gustavus and Klukwan , Alaska and at a conference in Vancouver.
This weekend we show the film in Sitka at the Coliseum Theater on Saturday, November 15th at 5:45 PM, reception to follow at Old Harbor Books.
Then comes Juneau and a screening and discussion at 360 North/Alaska PBS on Monday November 17th. The discussion will be filmed and shared with viewers in state, as a companion piece to “Tracing Roots.” when we air it.

On November 23rd we travel with Tracing Roots: A Weaver’s Journey to The Burke Museum in Seattle as part of the opening weekend of an exhibit called “Here and Now: Native Artists Inspired.”

We look forward to more screenings, to editing a DVD and jumping into distribution.


This remarkable film traces roots of differing kinds – natural tree roots collected and woven into exquisite baskets and hats, but also cultural roots of kinship traced across boundaries of time, space and generation
— Julie Cruikshank, Professor Emerita, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, University of British Columbia. Author, “Do Glacier’s Listen.”
The story unfolds like roots, in multiple directions all at once…although Churchill is the subject of the documentary, she is also one of its architects. It is her weaving, the art of it and the intellectual quest she lays before viewers that gives the film its humble humanity.
— Indira Arrigra, Anchorage Press
I felt I was right there walking in the woods, along the shoreline. I wasn’t just watching something, I was being part of it.
— Bill Holm, Author, “Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form"
This beautiful and moving film about weaver Delores Churchill situates the artist within ancient traditions as well as contemporary science.
— Aldona Jonaitis. Director, University of Alaska Museum of the North
Tracing Roots shows the extremely complex socio-cultural context of objects from the deep archeological past. Delores and her students reveal cultural continuity that that seems to be present in our souls.
— Larry J. Zimmerman, Professor of Anthropology & Museum Studies, Indiana University-Purdue University
Inspirational. The film shows how one person can through commitment to respectful inquiry, learn and help teach and touch hearts and minds. And where there is respect and integrity, research and publication can add value to all affected and interested parties ….Delores’ work is especially important in this because she reaches out beyond her proximal communities in pursuit of the knowledge and relationships that ultimately weave us together.
— John R Welch Dept. Archaeology and School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University